OBJECTIVE: To study whether dust exposure in California agriculture is a risk factor for respiratory symptoms. METHODS: A population-based survey of 1947 California farmers collected respiratory symptoms, occupational and personal exposures. Associations between dust and respiratory symptoms were assessed by logistic regression models. RESULTS: The prevalence of persistent wheeze was 8.6%, chronic bronchitis 3.8%, chronic cough 4.2%, and asthma 7.8%. Persistent wheeze was independently associated with dust in a dose-response fashion odds ratio, 1.2 (95% confidence interval[CI]=0.8-2.0) and 1.8 (95% CI=1.1-3.2) for low and high time in dust. A borderline significant association between chronic bronchitis and dust exposure was found. Asthma was associated with keeping livestock, but not with dust exposure. CONCLUSIONS: Occupational dust exposure among California farmers, only one third of whom tended animals, was independently associated with chronic respiratory symptoms.